The 35th Battalion
Chapter Twelve — The Doings of the YMCA
The Doings of the YMCA
When the battalion went to Fiji the YMCA work was in its infancy so far as welfare work was concerned in the Pacific area. Battalions in the Western Area were serviced by means of a mobile canteen, (perhaps better described as a 'limousine', built for comfort) using Namaka as a base. Before leaving Fiji the National Patriotic Fund Board had erected YMCA buildings in the camps.
Returning to New Zealand, the battalion was stationed at Paerata where Mr. Harold Clark was in charge of the YMCA activities. At Te Aroha Mr. L. Pycroft took charge of the YMCA work and he prepared for the embarkation to New Caledonia. At Taom, pioneering through the jungle, a marquee was the YM centre where many a chin wag took place over a cup of tea. Népoui Valley brought progress in the setting up of a recreation centre. Under Colonel Seaward's direction a modern roadhouse was erected. Built on native bure lines, it was a credit to the men who worked on it. The popularity of its modern bakery—pies, cakes, etc.—is still remembered by all. When the call came: 'Go north young man!' the YM packed up with the battalion and set sail for the beautiful isles of the South Seas.
Guadalcanal was where the New Zealander's initiative came to to light. Boiling the billy was difficult—tent room was short. Under the leadership of that notoriously righteous Presbyterian person who had faith and married a Methodist because he was content to have the faith as long as his wife did the work, they set forth and visited our American friends. Difficulties were soon over. Our Allies assisted greatly. What they did not help with the New Zealanders page 104helped themeslves to. I believe that this is where a certain padre gained his 'decoration!'
A month or so and we were on the move again—this time to Vella Lavella, where real problems were faced as everyone knows. The companies were stationed at various bays making it a difficult problem to cater for their respective needs. It was here that a change was made in YM secretaries, the notorious Rhys Williams replacing Ley Pycroft. For the first month he slept and then, slowly coming out of the trance, he set out to endeavour to improve the welfare work of the 35th Battalion. Cooperation is strength. The lead given by Colonel Moffat plus the cooperation of the padre and YM showed that a Social and Welfare Committee can do wonders in assisting to maintain morale amongst the troops. Will anyone forget the tennaquoit tournaments (with special reference to rules which took a long while to decide, thanks to Captain Hopwood), the swimming carnivals, tug-o'-war (North v. South), concerts, and Christmas carols. Then at Ruravai, at Ronaldson's Park, (perhaps better known as 'lake'). There we had basketball, tennaquoit and swimming. They Were good times.
Do you remember where the YM was—next to the circus tent? When it rained the drops came straight through. If there was not enough mud Lieutenant Montgomery would send the grader past the YM to improve conditions by making the mud deeper. Talking of tents; do you remember when Rhys William's tent blew over at 2 am? Did it rain!
Green Island was in view and many a case of comforts was packed for our new venture. Once again the welfare committee was on the job. After landing on the island a cup of tea was ready at practically every halt. At the first opportunity of outward mail, writing paper was distributed, together with Patriotic Fund supplies of shaving soap, razors, combs, toothbrushes and pastes. Did anyone hear the story of the padre and the YM Secretary who went for a stroll at the Mission and were just about lost?
The roadhouse on Green Island was the climax of our YM battalion life. National Patriotic Fund Boards supplies were plentiful; but when we built the roadhouse we wondered where the buffet supplies would come from. Ask headquarters company how many turned up for their breakfast at the roadhouse each morning at 9.30 am? How many cups of tea did Jock Simms have?page 105
Here at Green Island we heard the news of an orderly retreat to New Caledonia. Once again the welfare department went into action with a supply of morning and afternoon teas on board the boat from Green to Necal. It was easy going when the sea was calm, but when it was slightly rough things went round about or up and down the kitchen, depending on how sick one felt. Quizz sessions and tennaquoit tournaments on board ship were popular.
The shores of New Caledonia brought up to a new camp life. A camp was already built and recreation centres well equipped—but with this change we lost our identity as battalion YMCA workers. The final battalion entertainment and reunion was the grand dance held in the Bourail YMCA where every member enjoyed the swing of the splendid music of the RNZAF orchestra. Lieutenant Ted Breach as MC assisted by Padre Falloon's witty quotations set the evening off with a great swing.
The life of the YMCA with the 35th Battalion varied with the new difficulties and new fields that had to be served. Under the leadership of the battalion and company commanders, with the assistance of all members of the battalion, there has been established, through the work of the YMCA, a common link for all. We could not conclude without special mention being made of the assistance and guidance given by Colonel Moffat and Padre Falloon; not forgetting our worthy assistants—Les Missin, Sel Messenger and Percy Burns.